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'Gene chips' research in cotton could lead to superior variety

COLLEGE STATION A technology that uses "gene chips," which can help analyze tens of thousands of different DNA elements in a cotton plant, could lead to cotton varieties with superior traits and improved fiber quality.

Dr. Jeff Chen, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station scientist, is working on a $5.7 million National Science Foundation project led by Thomas Osborn at the University of Wisconsin, and a project funded by the National Institutes of Health on translating gene expression mechanisms using plants as a model system.

Chen's work involves DNA microarrays or "gene chips." In his laboratory, by spotting DNA elements directly onto 1X3-inch glass slides, one chip can potentially contain all annotated genes (approximately 30,000) of an animal or plant genome.

"DNA microarrays have broad applications in studying changes in gene expression and genomic structure in many biological contexts, including genetics, physiology, development and environment," Chen said. "With the help of computational and statistical tools, these changes can be incorporated into understanding of biological networks that regulate plant growth and production traits."

The technology "provides a high-throughput tool for practical applications," Chen said. Those include a wide variety from medical diagnostics to plant breeding programs.

The work was initially funded by Cotton Incorporated and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Collaborators include Barbara Triplett, a fiber biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans, and the Texas A&M University staff of David Stelly, a molecular cytogeneticist, Peggy Thaxton, a cotton breeder, and Sing-Hoi Sze, a computer scientist.

They recently received a five-year award of $2.5 million from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program for their ongoing studies of physiological and genetic effects on earl
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Contact: Blair Fannin
b-fannin@tamu.edu
979-845-2259
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
23-Sep-2004


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